Please note, this article contains the name and photo of someone who has passed away.
The man who shaped Aboriginal representation on screen and in Australian film, David Dalaithngu has passed away from lung cancer.
The Yolŋu man was an actor, artist, dancer and icon.
Dalaithngu made his debut in 1971, with the film Walkabout and went on to feature in films such as The Last Wave, Crocodile Dundee, The Tracker, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Ten Canoes, Goldstone and Charlie’s Country.
His TV credits also include Pine Gap and The Timeless Land.
Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt AM, MP issued a statement on Dalaithngu’s passing, sharing his condolences to the family.
“I was saddened to learn overnight that we have lost a giant of the screen, and a legend
of the Yolŋu people, David Dalaithngu,” he said.
“Through his iconic roles, it would be fair to say David is the most recognisable Aboriginal man in the world.”
“He took Aboriginal culture mainstream and global and, for this, his contribution to
raising the profile of our people and Australia cannot be overstated.”
“The subtlety he brought to his characters epitomised perfectly how Aboriginal people felt in those moments.”
Minister Wyatt noted that in 2019 Dalaithngu was “honoured with the NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award”.
“In that acceptance speech, he asked for us to never forget him and I’m sure none of us will.”
Dalaithngu was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, which led him to work on his first film as producer, titled My Name is Gulpilil.
Adding to his extraordinary list of achievements, he was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia for his services to the arts in the 1987 Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
South Australian Premier Steven Marshall also released a statement honouring Dalaithngu, saying he was a “once-in-a-generation artist”.
“An actor, dancer, singer and painter, he was also one of the greatest artists Australia has ever seen,” he said.
“His breakout role…was the first time that many in Australia and internationally had seen an Aboriginal character portrayed on screen.
“His haunting, moving performance was equal parts devastating as it was electric.”
“David’s life was not without its struggles — he encountered racism and discrimination, and lived with the pressures of the divide between his traditional lifestyle and his public profile,” the Premier said.
Tributes have continued to flow and Dalaithngu will be remembered by many.
He passed at age 68.
By Teisha Cloos